116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
For tech professionals and entrepreneurs such as Kellen Gracey, moving to a small town in Iowa wasn’t on his radar until recently.
“I love small town Iowa,” he said. “There is less traffic and it is easy to get involved in the community.
“However, I didn’t think it would be possible to live in a small town, work in the tech industry and start my own businesses. Fortunately, I was wrong.”
Kellen Gracey lives in Mount Pleasant but works remotely for GoDaddy, an internet domain registrar and web hosting company with roots in Cedar Rapids.
He also is the co-owner of new podcast and woodworking companies.
“I guess you could say I am an entrepreneur, but I really just like to be busy,” he said. “It is nice to be surrounded by other creative people who think outside the box.”
Technology, innovation and entrepreneurship are not words commonly associated with small county-seat towns with populations under 10,000 such as Mount Pleasant.
But NewBoCo is aiming to change that.
Mount Pleasant is one of the first rural Iowa towns to sign onto NewBoCo’s new Community Partners Pilot Program.
Supported by a grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, NewBoCo and local partners are helping to strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems in both Mount Pleasant and Mason City as part of a pilot program.
“NewBoCo has had a lot of wins in Cedar Rapids and statewide,” said Aaron Horn, NewBoCo executive director.
“This has led to community leaders and economic development professionals reaching out to learn what we are doing,”
In response, Horn and his colleagues conducted a customer discovery survey and listening session in November 2021.
“We learned that every Iowa community is different and has different gaps in their entrepreneurial ecosystems,” Horn recalled.
“NewBoCo is uniquely positioned to help fill some of those gaps.”
For Mount Pleasant, the gaps primarily are tech education and access to start-up capital.
Ray Vens is the director of Traction Steam Communications, a co-working and entrepreneurial center in Mount Pleasant.
“We will be hosting NewBoCo DeltaV courses, increasing access to Kiva loans for small businesses and even training local investors how to invest in our local start-ups,” Vens said.
“This will be significant additions for our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Filling in these gaps will help communities like Mount Pleasant and Mason City to stay competitive, attract employers and build new businesses from the ground up.”
For people like Kellen Gracey, the partnership is more than economic. It is cultural.
“NewBoCo is bringing an entrepreneurial vibe to Mount Pleasant,” he said. “There is a feeling of growth and innovation that has been lost in recent decades.
“This is exactly what my generation is looking for in a community. I’m already working on convincing my friends to move here.”
Mike Heaton is NewBoCo director of development.